Original plans for a new plaza expected to revitalize downtown have hit a few snags, so revisions are being explored, O’Fallon Mayor Herb Roach has announced.
As part of the Destination O’Fallon initiative, a multipurpose downtown plaza is to be located at the corner of First and Vine streets, where a gravel parking lot is now. It is also known as the Santa Hut lot.
When the city developed the project in 2015, top priorities included additional parking and a dedicated event space. Ideas included a farmers market, concerts and seasonal festivals.
But to bring more people downtown, amenities must be in place, and that’s where the project has stalled. Parking, lighting and gathering space concerns have surfaced for the proposed location.
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At a recent Committee of the Whole meeting, attended by aldermen and city officials July 31, the mayor gave an update.
“We’re looking at it again before we make any plans,” Roach said. “We want to see how best to use that space, instead of going about it piecemeal. We want feedback. We want to build on what we have done there.”
Roach said a high-pressure gas line runs right underneath the proposed location for a gazebo, and therefore, it is not a good place for events. It was discovered while researching infrastructure.
“This may impact where the plaza is located,” he said.
Because an overflow parking area is part of the plan, the mayor said the city has contacted the railroad to see if any of their easements can be used for additional downtown parking. The county has also been contacted about space where buses pull into downtown.
Staff is evaluating whether more parking spaces can be created along First Street adjacent to the caboose, and around the depot, Roach said.
City Administrator Walter Denton had explained the issues at a July 19 town hall, one of new quarterly meetings scheduled to open more lines of communications between residents and city officials.
He said it is going to take longer than initially thought, although the city is committed to working on solutions.
About 70 residents attended a public workshop Jan. 18 to contribute ideas to help determine the plaza’s design, policies and construction.
Community Development Director Ted Shekell had said earlier that more than 1,300 residents had provided input through an online survey sent to the community about the downtown plaza and family soccer park. The staff had read 250-300 completed surveys, too.
Destination O’Fallon is a comprehensive economic development initiative, which was approved last November, to spur growth and provide more opportunities for youths and families.
It was approved last November, and will be completed in phases. Improvements and expansion of the soccer fields at the O’Fallon Family Sports Park are in process.
Photos, concepts and information are featured on the city’s website. An increased hotel-motel tax is expected to collect $1.5 million to help finance it.
The council repealed and replaced the previous hotel-motel tax ordinance for 5 percent so that an additional 4 percent would fund Destination O’Fallon, which could cost up to $9.5 million.
O’Fallon collected $815,000 in hotel-motel tax revenue last year and had the lowest tax of any city in St. Clair County.
In the next 15 years, O’Fallon is estimated to grow to more than 40,000 residents, which would be the city’s most transformative growth period since it was founded in 1854.
The next Committee of the Whole Meeting will take place Oct. 30. Roach said he would like to have one every fifth Monday.